Last week I talked a little bit about 2 questions I went around asking people, and said I would publish the results of those conversations this week, but before I do, I wanted to ask you if you could have named 10 brands of beer, or if you could have named the 10 Commandments. For those of you who couldn't, or have trouble naming the 10 Commandments, there is a rather easy way of remembering them. Just Remember that the first 4 of them have to deal with our relationship with God, 1 has to do with our parents, and 5 are straight "thou shalt not" short phrases. Here they are in the same order as they appear in the Bible in Exodus 20: 1-17:
Commandments regarding our relationship with God.
1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
Commandment regarding parents.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother.
The last 5 "thou shalt not" Commandments
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
10. Thou shalt not covet.
Now for the results. Again, this was a very informal survey which prodded random people to come up with two separate lists of ten. I was dressed casually with nothing in my hands but a notebook and my daughter who is 9 years old at my side. When approaching these groups of people on the J.S.U. campus and other places, I invited them to either take the two question survey as a group and pool their knowledge, or elect one person to speak for the whole group. Each group said they would answer together, but when I asked the first question one person would begin the list of beers and become the unofficial spokesperson for the whole group with others in the group chiming in only a few times.
Within the groups and even individuals I polled, everyone was able to name 10 brands of beer regardless of background, sex, or age of the people being asked. Think about that for a minute. I'm not saying this would be true with everyone, but out of the groups and individuals I talked to, every single person in the group said they would also have been able to name 10 brands of beer, and every individual I talked to one-on-one was able to name 10 brands of beer.
Within the groups and individuals I polled, there was some variation on their ability to come up with the 10 Commandments. The people I talked to ranged in their ability to come up with the 10 Commandments from 5 to 7. Some people were only able to name 5, while the highest percentage of people were able to name 6, and only a couple of people were able to name 7 of them. However, no one was able to name all 10 Commandments either on their own or as a group despite several of them admitting to having memorized them at some point in their past.
I then asked them what percentage of people would be able to name 10 brands of beer vs. the 10 Commandments, what they thought of the percentages they gave, and what those percentages said about the people who could name 10 brands of beer but could not name all of the 10 Commandments. I was strictly asking for their own opinion in a conversational way that invited them to make their own judgements. Here is a sampling of those conversations.
Outside a fraternity on the J.S.U. campus, I talked to a group of three guys. Brandon, Charles, and Zack agreed to be polled as a group. Charles came up with the list of 10 beers on his own but expressed some regret as soon as I asked him to name the 10 Commandments. "OK, now you're starting to make me feel bad," he said as he then started his list eventually coming up with 5 on his own and a 6th came with some help from the other two with him. During the conversation, Charles mentioned that he had grown up Southern Baptist and said, "This is a Christian based fraternity. I know I'm standing here talking to you with a beer and a cigarette in my hand, but I still believe in God." When I asked him how often he shared his faith, he admitted that he did not share it very often. When I asked him why, he basically responded that he was afraid of not having the answers to someone's questions, or giving the wrong answers and looking foolish.
At one of the apartments where there is an outdoor pool, I approached two other groups. One of these groups was able to come up with 7 of the 10 Commandments, but when asked about what percentage of the J.S.U. campus would be able to name 10 brands of beer vs. the 10 Commandments, one of the groups, Jennifer, John and Ashley, said that probably 100% of the campus could name 10 brands of beer, but felt only 20% - 30% might be able to name all of the 10 Commandments. When I asked her why she thought this to be true, she said "Because students think more about beer than God." I thanked her for her honesty and candid response. In her opinion, it is the reality she sees, and she just gave her opinion on her own environment as she saw it which I found very interesting.
In one of the last groups I talked with Noel and Megan. Noel said she was a Christian, but when I asked her about how often she shared her faith and why she might not share her faith more often, her response was that people see the way she lives and when they understand about where she came from and what she had been through, then they would understand her and her faith in God. I did not probe any deeper, but it sounded like she had a very compelling testimony and a great story to tell.
Now my question for you is, could you have done it? I'm not talking about naming 10 brands of beer or naming the 10 Commandments, I'm talking about having a conversation with a total stranger about salvation. I had no Bible or New Testament, and no literature of any kind. I had my daughter with me and a blank spiral notebook which I used to take notes as I talked with people strictly so I could recall those conversations later. In each of these conversations, I used the two questions as a launch point to talk to people I had never met before, outside in the open air, when they were already standing or sitting around talking with other people. Once the conversation was started, I used more questions about the 10 Commandments to talk to them about their own standing before God, whether they would be able to get into heaven with the guilt of sin on their life, and talked only very briefly about salvation.
You see, I'm still learning. "The Way of the Master" course is not over yet, but already I've had interesting conversations with total strangers who thanked me for coming up to them to talk with them. That's right. Not one single person was combative, or argumentative. It was the easiest conversation I'd ever had bringing up the topic of God and salvation with a total stranger, and each group or individual thanked me for taking the time to talk with them. Even better, my daughter was able to watch and listen and see how easy and even interesting it can be for someone to share their faith with others.
What about you, could you have done it? Before you say no, remember this: we are all tasked with the opportunity of going into the world to teach people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you can have a conversation with anyone, you have all the ability you need to talk about the Gospel. Maybe you just need a little training or a point in the right direction. While I'd recommend "The Way of the Master" the truth is there may be other suitable programs out there that can teach you how to share your faith unafraid.
Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to be sidelined by fear. There are people out there who need to hear from you, people you will meet that will be truly grateful you took the time to talk with them, but you will never meet them unless you go.